Bhubaneswar leading rapid motorization chart in Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Motorisation in Smart City Bhubaneswar is highest as compared to other cities in Odisha, revealed a survey conducted by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

As per its findings, cities in Odisha are in the grip of rapid motorization contributing to higher pollution levels. Motorization is highest in Bhubaneswar followed by Cuttack while the trend in other cities is upward. It is also a matter of concern that auto-rickshaws in all cities are predominantly on diesel. 

Interestingly, the highest percentage increase in total vehicle registration has happened between 2005 and 2017 in Balasore at 272%; Cuttack– 159%; Angul– 152%, Bhubaneswar– 118% Rourkela– 80. 

In view of this, CSE has joined hands with the Odisha government to ring in the World Environment Day with concrete action. On the eve of June 5th, Odisha took the notable step of kickstarting the process of implementing the newly developed “Comprehensive Action Plan for Clean Air for Six Non-attainment Cities of Odisha” — Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Talcher, Angul, and Balasore.

In a high level National Orientation Conclave on Air Quality Management: Building Strategies for Clean Air, held here today, the Chief Secretary of the state, Aditya Prasad Padhi, flagged off the process of implementation of the plans.

This Conclave brought together senior officials and key implementing agencies from the six cities along with national experts to deliberate on the strategies for implementation and to enable cross-learning based on best practices. These plans have been jointly developed by the Forest and Environment Department, Government of Odisha and the Odisha State Pollution Control Board in association with CSE.

The Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi led the deliberations. Other high level officials including the Suresh Chandra Mahapatra, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Environment and Forests; G Mathi Vathanan, Principle Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Department; Debidutta Biswal, Member Secretary, State Pollution Control Board and K Murugesan, Director, Environment and Special Secretary, Department of Forests and Environment laid out the challenges and the way forward to fast track change in the state.

Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director for Research and Advocacy, CSE — the knowledge partner in this initiative — highlighted the scope of the plans. Prominent national experts in the area of air quality assessment, transport, industry, power plants, and waste management addressed the gathering to provide knowledge support to the strategy implementation. The conclave was also attended by officials from the Departments of Environment, Transport, the State Pollution Control Board, district administration, municipal corporations, traffic police, Industry, development sector and other stakeholders.

The six-city clean air action plans have been designed to meet the air quality targets. Industrialisation, rapid motorisation, booming construction activities, waste generation, dispersed use of solid fuels, and mining activities are cumulatively and continuously polluting the air. To this is added episodic pollution from biomass and crop residue burning. While several measures have been taken in all these sectors, there is need for next generation sectoral strategies to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The time bound, integrated and multi-sectoral action requires adoption of several new generation compliance methods and system to control real world emissions, and comprehensive design details of mitigation strategies.

The deliberation highlighted that urban air quality management requires multi-sectoral and coordinated action to address rising air pollution from multiple sources in the rapidly growing cities.

The key highlights of the findings of the plans are as follow:

Air pollution reduction target: The six city action plans have been designed to enable time bound reduction in air pollution levels. Out of the six cities Talcher-Angul, and Rourkela are prominent industrial towns and have the special challenge of reducing industrial emissions and mining impacts. These industrial and mining cities have to reduce their PM10 level by at least 39-45 per cent and PM2.5 level by about 14-30 per cent (depending on the city) from the current base line to meet the clean national ambient air quality standards. Similarly, the emerging metropolitan cities like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Balasore need to reduce PM10 levels by 27-36 per cent. In case of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack PM2.5 levels are close to meeting the standard whereas Balasore has to reduce it by 12 per cent. This shows that while industrial cities will require aggressive reduction, the metropolitan cities will require strong preventive strategies at this stage of growth to prevent worsening of the situation. 

Number of days not meeting the national standards have increased over time: The plans have brought out the urgency for early action as the number of days exceeding the permissible limit is increasing over time. In Bhubaneshwar the percentage of days not meeting the standard has gone up from 26% in 2008 to 45% in 2017; in Talcher from 9.65% to 45% and in Angul 28% to 34.16%. On the other hand, it has remained stable around 25% in Cuttack. In Rourkela this has declined from 54% to 45%. The clean air action plan is designed to arrest this trend and increase the number compliant days in these cities. 

Six city-Action plans aim to reduce health risk in the state: According to a 2017 study by ICMR, PHFI and HEI has found that air pollution is the second largest risk factor in the state. In fact, the death rate per 100,000 population at 65.3 is quite similar to that of Delhi. If air quality improves average citizens of Odisha can increase life expectancy by about 1.2 years. This bear out health impact can be high even at levels that are much lower than Delhi as most of the health impacts occur at lower level of exposure. 

Need tracking of air pollution sources: As of now source apportionment and emissions inventory studies have not been carried out in these cities. One independent study carried out Urban Info for Bhubaneswar shows that in PM2.5 concentration the share of vehicles is highest followed by residential sector for the use of solid fuels at 22 per cent. In case of NOx concentration share of industry is highest at about 37 per cent followed by transport sector at 28 per cent. Odisha State Pollution Control Board is poised to carry out source apportionment studies in these cities generate more granular data to inform policy making. 

Action on industry: Odisha Government has initiated implementation of action plan for the industrial belt of Angul-Talcher that is part of 24 critically polluted areas specified by CPCB. OSPCB has prepared Action Plan for Angul-Talcher Area in March 2016 to strengthen the ongoing compliance programme with emissions standards; retrofitment of emissions control system, and siting policy. The plans are designed to promote clean fuels including oil and natural gas. OSPCB has also initiated star rating programme for industry to incentivise improvement in emissions control systems. The deliberations explored the potential of further improvement and also how management of fugitive emissions can be done at industry level. Pollution management of mine areas was yet another focus including adoption of advanced technologies, and dust prevention techniques including railway sliding areas and from truck movement.  

Action on power plants: The state has seven thermal power plants — over 24 units running collectively in districts of Jharsuguda, Angul and Dhenkanal. These are being retrofitted with emissions control systems. Going forward implementation of new power plant standards will have to be fast tracked. Plant-wise plans will be framed for the implementation of the standards. In fact, as per the Supreme Court Order of 2018 power plants in high density areas would need to be prioritised. Strategies for gas based power plants will be explored and strategies for fly ash pond  bricks, plantation etc will be implemented. More robust monitoring and enforcement strategies including deterrence will be needed. 

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